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The hard life of the free Donbas. The only hope is a Ukrainian victory

Jun 8, 2023 | News, Ukraine, Life, Community, Featured, Politics

The aftermath of the Russian shelling of the Kramatorsk downtown (January, 2023)

Hennadii Bohdanov
for New Pathway – Ukrainian News

Today, the cities of the free Donbas are experiencing a difficult and tragic life. Most of the factories and workplaces that formed the backbone of the region’s industry and, on which the life of entire cities was dependent on, are shut down.

In Kramatorsk, Sloviansk, Kostiantynivka and Druzhkivka, out of more than 30 large metallurgical and machine-building enterprises only about a quarter are still fully or partially working, about 10% have moved to other regions and about 60% have shut down. In Sviatohirsk, where the economy of the city was completely dependent on resorts, sanatoriums and hotels, of which there were more than 70 before the war, not a single institution is open.
The war Russia began is the main reason for this. Due to the war, businesses lost employees, funds and property, their sales markets and supplies of raw materials. And, most importantly, it has become simply too dangerous to work due to the great number of shells falling from the skies.

Workers have lost their jobs, and businesses have gone bankrupt. Smaller enterprises have moved to other regions. But large factories like the Novokramatorsk Machine-Building Plant cannot do this, purely because those are large factories with large equipment. The management of the plant has no answer to the question of relocation as their only one hope is that the Ukrainian Armed Forces push the enemy back.

The economy of the cities and the welfare of the population have fallen sharply. Thanks mainly to the huge subsidies from the European Union, the United States and Canada, public institutions such as the police, emergency services, hospitals, schools and public administrations continue to operate. Restaurants, cafes and bazaars are still open.

The Sviatohirsk Lavra after the Russian shelling

All of this happens under constant shelling, when rockets fall on cities every night, and even in the middle of the day, and life is now a lottery – “to be killed or not.” In order to save lives, local authorities encourage people to evacuate. There have already been several waves of migration, the largest (after the initial panic at the beginning of the war) was in July 2022, when the enemy stood near Kurulka, Kharkiv oblast (20 km from Sloviansk) and in Lyman, where only 22,000 people remained from a pre-war population of 107,000.

Thanks to the Kharkiv offensive, the enemy was pushed back and the population of the cities of northern Donbas gradually returned. But with the advance of the enemy toward Bakhmut this year, the danger has returned and the authorities are again urging people to leave Kostiantynivka (17km from the front line), Kramatorsk-Druzhkivka (40km from the front line), Sloviansk (45km from the front line). On 18 April 2023, the Kramatorsk Military District Administration reported on their website on the mandatory free evacuation of civilians to resettle in the Cherkasy and Zhytomyr oblasts.

The statistics of migration flows (according to the State Administration and local authorities) looks, approximately, like this:

– Kramatorsk: 204 thousand in 2021; 45 thousand in July 2022; 80 thousand in April 2023

– Sloviansk: 107 thousand in 2021; 20 thousand in July 2022; 40 thousand in April 2023

– Kostiantynivka: 78 thousand in 2021; 30 thousand in July 2022; 40 thousand in April 2023

– Druzhkivka: 54 thousand in 2021; 22 thousand in July 2022; 37 thousand in April 2023

Some leave using the evacuation corridors, others are taken out by volunteers (for example, on May 4 volunteers took out 7 people from the burning Bakhmut), and so most of those who wanted to leave, have already left. But many people stay behind. Some simply do not understand how to leave their homes. This is because they know nothing outside of their homes and they not seen anything in their lives apart from their work and their chickens. People have no idea what to do without earning money. There is a stratum of fatalists – “If I get killed, so be it, you cannot escape from fate.” Some are simply waiting for the Russians to come, and they will “live well and happily.”

However, as the experience of 2014 suggests, economic life will recover quite quickly after the expulsion of the enemy and the advent of peace. Therefore, we cherish the hope for a counteroffensive, liberation of our native land and an end of the war.

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